Friday, September 28, 2012

Marriage: Anti-Poverty Weapon

I heard something that sparked a connect-the-dots moment the other day. First, while unemployment rates are unacceptably high for everyone, they have been even more shockingly high for blacks. I know the numbers differ based on whether you’re counting those who have stopped seeking work, or have accepted low-paying part-time work rather than nothing. Rates typically are counted just by those seeking unemployment benefits, which means they are undercounted. So these numbers could be higher.
The highest unemployment rate is listed at 37.9% for black teens, compared to 22.8% for white teens. But looking at adults, blacks deal with 14.3% for men and 12% for women, compared to an overall rate around 8%. The storyline is that there must be some racism going on. But what if you add in a few other questions, like:
·         Education level?
·         Family structure?
·         Location?
·         Legal history?
I don’t have it all spelled out, but there is some evidence that some specific behaviors and choices are playing a part much more than racism.
What I heard that piqued my interest was that, with this apparent racial economic disparity, there’s a more-or-less apples-to-apples comparison that tells a different story. (All this is spelled out, with charts, in this piece by Robert Rector at The Heritage Foundation, including the charts below.)  
Economic poverty is high among black families, but among black married households, the poverty rate is only 7%. That is about double the poverty rate of married white families, but it is only half the poverty rate (13.2%) among married Hispanic families. Meanwhile, among non-married black families the poverty rate is 35.6%, very close to the rate for non-married Hispanic families: 37.9%. (I’m assuming these families are defined as an unmarried parent, usually the mother, and at least one child under 18.) For non-married whites, poverty hovers around 22%.
Married black families have a poverty rate of less than a third of non-married whites. And that is before we take into account education level and other factors.  Just for perspective, combining all races and education levels, non-married families have a poverty rate of 37.1%, and among married families that rate is 6.8%.
I don’t have data that separates out education level by race. But the data combining education levels and marital status is informative.
Single parents who are high school dropouts (of any age, so this averages in those who are 10 to 15 years into parenthood and may be gaining some employment experience) have a poverty rate of 58.8%. Being married brings that down to 24%—meaning you’re less than half as likely to be in poverty, even as a high school dropout, if you’re married—even to another high school dropout.
For high school graduates, non-married families are likely to be in poverty 38.8% of the time (just above the overall poverty rate for non-married families of any race or education level). But families with only a high school diploma and no other education, if they’re married are in poverty only 8.9% of the time. Married high school graduates have a better than 91% chance of avoiding poverty, just because they remain married.
Greater education improves things. Single parents can decrease their poverty rate to 27.8% with some college, and down to 10.6% if they graduate from college. Note that non-married educated parents don’t quite measure up to the chances of avoiding poverty that married high school graduates have, but clearly education helps. But these last two groups, if they’re married, have poverty rates of only 4.6% and 1.8% respectively.
So clearly college and marriage help. But marriage helps more than education. Add marriage to a college education, and you’ve improved your chances of avoiding poverty about 6-fold. You’ve virtually guaranteed rising to the middle class or better.
There is a formula for avoiding poverty that we’ve known about for quite a while. I wrote about it back in February, and first came across the data a decade ago. The more data we get, the more the basic truth becomes evident.
  1. Don’t have sex before age 20.
  2. Don’t have sex until after marriage.
  3. Stay married.
  4. Obtain at least a high school diploma.
No anti-poverty program will work long-term if it doesn’t spell out this formula and encourage ways for people to follow it, especially for those who don’t see the example of strong families all around them.

My guess is that homes, churches, and private schools are going to be much better at inculcating this formula than government. Government is woefully ill equipped to educate, especially when the subject matter looks religious. But, religious looking or not, the data is simply factual.  

Here at Spherical Model we’re aware that living a civilized life is much more likely to lead to financial prosperity than living an uncivilized life (savage, southern hemisphere on the spherical model). The political, economic, and civilization spheres overlay one another. That’s how we know that taking money from productive people and giving it to people in poverty will not and cannot lift those people out of poverty. Poverty can be solved—for an extremely high percentage of people from every race and gender—within a generation by following the formula. This will become even more evident if government gets out of the way of the country’s economic prosperity. 

There may still be a percentage in poverty, even among those who try to do everything right. But already, among those who live the formula, the problem is so small, it would easily be solved by private philanthropy. 

There are other, big, daunting problems worldwide. But if strong families praying together can, in a relatively short time historically speaking, solve poverty, then strong families praying about the other problems might yield the other solutions we hope for as well. 

This election matters. It matters monumentally. It determines whether we continue in a direction that leads inevitably down to tyranny, poverty, and savagery, or in a direction back up toward the thriving our nation’s founders tried to make possible and permanent for us—“if you can keep it,” Benjamin Franklin added. So the election is something we must pay attention to. 

But after the election, once our direction is determined (hopefully northward on the Spherical Model), then we have a lot of work to do, starting with our own homes and radiating out from there.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What "Invest in Opportunity" Means

I’ve been going back to something in my mind for the last few weeks. Sometimes something sticks because it has larger implications than it seemed to have at the moment. Nobody’s really talking about this anymore, but I’m still thinking about what I heard at the DNC convention last month.

Julian Castro, Mayor of San Antonio
photo from Wikipedia
There was a talk by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the keynote address on Tuesday of that week. He and his twin brother, a candidate for congress, are a success story, and he told it fairly well. His grandmother Victoria came to this country from Mexico as an orphan, to live with relatives who were willing to take her in. She had to drop out of school after fourth grade to help contribute to the family income. But she worked hard all her life to give her only child, the Castro twins’ mother, a better life.
He does not mention a father or grandfather, so I turned to Wikipedia. No mention of a grandfather, and their grandmother apparently raised their mother alone. Their mother, Rosie, made a living as a political activist, helping to establish the radically leftist pro-Hispanic group La Raza. She ran unsuccessfully for city council three years before the birth of the boys. She separated from their father when the boys were eight. The father, Jessie Guzman, is described as a political activist and retired math teacher. The story in the keynote address has these two hardworking women raising the boys on their own, working heroically to give them a better chance at success.
Both graduated from Stanford, through affirmative action, and then Harvard Law (presumably also through affirmative action).
Some of the story sounds like it could have been delivered at the RNC convention, maybe by Ted Cruz (except for that somewhat glaring absence of fathers in the family story).  Castro says this:
My grandmother's generation and generations before always saw beyond the horizons of their own lives and their own circumstances. They believed that opportunity created today would lead to prosperity tomorrow. That's the country they envisioned, and that's the country they helped build. The roads and bridges they built, the schools and universities they created, the rights they fought for and won—these opened the doors to a decent job, a secure retirement, the chance for your children to do better than you did.
And that's the middle class—the engine of our economic growth. With hard work, everybody ought to be able to get there. And with hard work, everybody ought to be able to stay there—and go beyond. The dream of raising a family in a place where hard work is rewarded is not unique to Americans. It's a human dream, one that calls across oceans and borders. The dream is universal, but America makes it possible. And our investment in opportunity makes it a reality.
Now, in Texas, we believe in the rugged individual. Texas may be the one place where people actually still have bootstraps, and we expect folks to pull themselves up by them. But we also recognize there are some things we can't do alone. We have to come together and invest in opportunity today for prosperity tomorrow.
The highlights are mine; they identify the Obama “you didn’t build that” message couched within the American Dream message. Some of it, like expecting people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, we can agree with. “Investment in opportunity,” however, is a phrase he uses for some other purpose. In the next minute or so he says opportunity two more times and some form of invest two more times. And he repeats the theme later in the speech.
Then he turns on the Republicans, particularly Romney, referring to a speech he’d given where he opened up possibilities for paying for college beyond government grants, and included borrowing from parents, where that was possible. I found it a positive message, but Castro mocked it:
Some people are lucky enough to borrow money from their parents, but that shouldn't determine whether you can pursue your dreams. I don't think Governor Romney meant any harm. I think he's a good guy. He just has no idea how good he's had it.
Hmm. Romney doesn’t know how good he’s had it. And how did he have it? His father immigrated to the US from Mexico, during ravaging war there, in abject poverty. His father never had the opportunity to go to college, but he worked hard and eventually became head of GM, and then was elected governor of Michigan. So by the time Mitt Romney came along, his parents did see to it that he got a good education through a private prep school.
Mitt Romney got accepted to Stanford on his merits, without any kind of affirmative action. Then, after a church mission to France, that he paid for, he transferred to Brigham Young University (to be with Ann) and graduated from there, again on his own merits and his own dime. Then, with a wife and two children, he graduated with honors from a dual program of Harvard Law and MBA.
Mitt Romney didn’t need affirmative action, because he prospered on smarts and hard work—smarts and hard work that were significant enough that having a father who never went to college and couldn’t grease the skids didn’t stand in his way.
Mitt Romney, just like Julian Castro, is just a generation or two from immigrant poverty. Castro says he values his grandmother’s hard work and effort that would lead to their success, if not her own. And while his own smarts would have given him scholarship opportunity at many good schools (granted, not Stanford and Harvard, but maybe University of Texas or Rice), he thinks affirmative action was necessary for his success, regardless of hard work or smarts. Yet somehow Romney’s success without affirmative action is because of privilege.
Castro says his San Antonio high school was full of students just as bright and hard-working as he and his brother, who could have succeeded except they lacked the opportunity. This was the early 1990s, in Texas, where Hispanics are plentiful and successful in every walk of life. And he’s claiming affirmative action gave the Castro brothers their opportunity but did not give it to all those other bright, hard-working friends. Why? What made the Castro brothers the recipients and not their friends? Their mother’s activism, possibly? I don’t know; I just don’t understand what he’s trying to sell. That everyone is smart and hard-working and deserves to go to Stanford and Harvard, and therefore everyone should receive that opportunity?
Let me get this straight: the real belief is that if someone succeeds, it may have involved hard work and brains, but it couldn’t have happened without some intervention to grant opportunity. In Romney’s case, just having a father with wealth, whom he could have turned to had the need arisen, disqualifies him as a regular person. But Castro, receiving the deus ex machina of government affirmative actionwhen equally deserving friends did not, is somehow virtuous.
He claims that it is government’s obligation to “invest in opportunity,” meaning take money from some earners to give largesse to favored others—that this is virtuous, even the very purpose of government.
Who decides who receives the “investment in opportunity”? Some bureaucrat? Hmm. Doesn’t inspire confidence, at least for me.
Here’s the reality I see. I have three very bright children, but let’s look at Political Sphere, as a comparison, since I’ve mentioned him before. He worked through college on his own, graduated with honors—and huge debt—from a state school where he was considered out-of-state for three years (while illegal aliens were given in-state tuition rates). He has the same color skin, the same dark hair and eyes, that Julian Castro has. But he has the disadvantage of coming from married parents descended from currently non-favored northern European heritage. (My grandfather immigrated in poverty as well, and found relative success in a single generation. A story for another day.) We gave Political Sphere the best education our middle-middle-class income could provide (including gifted schools in public education, and then homeschooling). He chose the university based on its program, but it turned out there was no placement program, and no one in his graduating class got a job in the field. Some went on to a graduate program at that time, but the debt load made that impossible for our son.
As a family, we stepped in and did what we could: PS and family lived with us for 3 ¼ years, rent free, while he worked two jobs that were much lower paying than he was qualified for. Now he has begun law school—not Harvard, but at a very good private school, that he got accepted to on merit, including some scholarship money. We are so proud of him.
But, since government isn’t “investing” in his “opportunity,” must we assume that “he didn’t build that success”? We’re just not admitting how good he had it?
I don’t feel angry that his opportunities are less than Mitt Romney had; they are enough. They would have been more easily obtained if government interference hadn’t brought down the economy at a crucial point. We’ll persevere, but we’re really hoping for better times following this election. What we really don’t need is government deciding we don’t give enough toward the education of the next generation, so government should tax us higher and disperse that money to those it deems deserving. The very idea seems ridiculous under the circumstances.
There’s something I noticed during the Castro speech.  At about the 11-minute point, his facial expression changes. Suddenly, he’s no longer positive; suddenly he’s angry and attacking. It reminded me (don’t laugh) of the moment in Ghostbusters when we see the monstrous Stay Puft Marshmallow Man suddenly turn from benign to menacing. Castro is angry and aggressive, possibly forgetting that it’s his party and his candidate that has brought us this ongoing mess. He attacks as though the GOP, and Romney in particular, has been purposely dismantling the economy, with especial efforts to prevent people, and maybe particularly people from his ethnic group, from getting educated. It’s a malicious lie.
So let’s be honest about what “invest in opportunity” means. Government doesn’t invest; government doesn’t produce; it taxes to acquire revenue and then spends it. So referring to the process of government taxing producers and then spending on those the government deems fit to “invest” in is nothing more than saying, “Government should have access to your money and decide how to spend it.” That’s how you know you’re listening to a Castro at the DNC convention rather than a Ted Cruz at the RNC convention. That’s the difference between democrats and republicans right now, and coincidentally the difference between socialists and constitutional conservatives.

Friday, September 21, 2012

What to Do

We’re about a month and a half out from the presidential election—the election that is most accurately seen as the decision about the direction of our country, toward European socialism, or back toward our beloved constitutional republic. Not coincidentally, that decision is also one between continued economic malaise caused by government interference and recovery that naturally happens when government gets out of the way.

True the Vote info card
Those of us who care see how important this moment is. We want to know we’ve done everything we can and should do. One thing we can do is ensure free and fair elections. With choices so portentous, we need to be able to walk away from the election with the certainty that the election accurately reflects the will of the people.
How do you make sure the elections are free and fair? You watch. Just as homes with active alarm monitoring are less likely to be burglarized than easy targets, watched polls are less likely to be compromised.
John Fund has written a book called Who’s Counting: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk (interview here). He makes the comparison with shoplifting; if you have the cameras up, and the signs that shoplifting will be prosecuted leads to less theft.
We have data now to show this effect. Back in 2010, the True the Vote project sent out about 1000 trained volunteers to watch the polls (I was one of them) in Harris County, where Houston is located. Poll watchers can’t interfere or direct; they can only observe, record, and report. After that election there were more than 800 incident reports of problems at the polls. They fit under various categories of violation. The 2011 election was smaller, but the comparison shows that training and watching do indeed make a difference.

Incident Description
# in 2010 election
# in 2011 election
Illegal assistance
Improper poll procedure
Improper voter qualification
Unauthorized personnel

County training of officials in 2011 included an understanding of poll watchers, and an expectation that they would be there observing. Many violations the previous year were the result of improper training; poll workers didn’t know they were doing anything wrong, because no one had ever held them accountable before.
Harris County was the guinea pig for poll watcher training. True the Vote has spread that training nationwide, and done a pretty amazing job of tailoring the training for the laws in each individual state.
There are about 1000 polling locations on election day in Harris County. Some are bigger and more in need of watching than others, but each place needs at least two, so separate accounts can corroborate each other. So this single county needs about 3000 poll workers, three times the volunteers in 2010. To cover the whole country, we need a million.
I would assume this is impossible, but True the Vote did “impossible” things in verifying the recall in Wisconsin, and has done amazing things in a short time since it started with a handful of people back in 2009.
So, if you want to make a difference in this important election, consider volunteering as a poll watcher. You can get training online, in about an hour or so. And you’ll be put in contact with a team in your area so you can get an assignment and authorization.
Here’s what you need to do. Go to and register. You’ll get a password, and then you can sign in at the portal login any time and click on the training courses you need. Whatever state you’re in, your training will pertain to your specific place.
Basic poll watcher training is what we’re mainly talking about here, but there are also various training courses for checking the voter rolls, which is also essential. Many counties across the nation have more voter registration than 100% of the population. Pugh research says there are 1.8 million registered dead people. The problem is that a sizable number of these non-breathing people continue to vote. When you have a close election, like we had in Florida in 2000, that makes a difference.
As John Fund says, “You no longer need to win with a margin of victory; you need to win with a margin of litigation.”  Al Franken got elected to the US Senate during an election when 1100 felons illegally voted. Dozens have already been convicted of voting illegally in that election. It’s likely, when all is said and done, that the number convicted of voting illegally will exceed the margin of victory. If Al Franken hadn’t been placed as the 60th democrat senator, Obamacare would not have passed. Accurate counting matters—to all of us.
If indeed our country is a majority of people who disdain the Constitution, if people really do want to give up their freedoms in exchange for government serfdom, then we are so far gone that an election will do no more than reveal our too-far-gone state.
But I do not believe that is where we are. I believe we are in dire circumstances, where far too many people lack information and understanding, but a sizable majority favors freedom and constitutional protection from government overreach. I believe people still want all the opportunity that goes with liberty. But the lack of education and understanding means that many people are easily fooled.
King Street Patriots, the tea party type group behind the True the Vote project, has faced an inordinate amount of litigation and harassment, including bold-faced lies and accusations of racism. (This piece is a pretty good example; read it with the question in mind, “Do these people really care about free and fair elections? Can I trust what they say about True the Vote volunteers, who are my neighbors and friends?) I have been to many of their meetings; the goal truly is free and fair elections. No racist, classist, or even party-affiliated derogatory comments are tolerated in this non-partisan effort, let alone preached there. (I’ve written about True the Vote and poll watching several times: here, here, here, here, here, and here.)
Here’s what I’d like to see. First, sign up yourself to be a poll watcher. Then, if you have friends who are democrats out of tradition, unaware that their party has been co-opted by radical leftists—if these people fear poll watching because it might disenfranchise someone, get them to take the training and become a poll watcher themselves. They’ll see several things: wanting free and fair elections is not about hate; it’s about loving our country. It’s not about racism or disenfranchising legal voters; it’s about avoiding cancelling out legal votes by ignoring illegal voting. It’s about becoming aware of and following the laws, not in any way skirting them for political purposes.
If someone is worried someone else might be against free and fair elections, let them act to see that free and fair elections take place. Let them witness. The more witnesses we have, the more certain we will be that our elections reflect the will of the people.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Little Purpose

There’s so much right now that needs writing about. But what is happening right now in the Spherical Model household is kind of taking priority. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a special favorite moment near the end of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. After all the trials, after overcoming the evil and accomplishing the quest, the humble hobbits return home. They are at the pub, and Sam works up the courage to go and approach Rosy, the young lady he has long admired. And that is the beginning of family—which was the purpose of all the rest. We’re having a purpose of life moment here.

Grandbaby number 2, a son to our son Political Sphere and his wife, arrived Saturday afternoon. We had a midwife, the same one who came for their first child. (Baby Political Sphere has grown up to be a big sister now, so we need a new way to reference her; Future Ruler of the World would probably suit her. At age 3 she is very much in charge. But I think I’ll reference her as PS Big Sister.)
Both of these little ones weighed in at exactly 9 pounds. What are the odds? Mrs. Political Sphere is a bitty little thing, unlike the mountainous Political Sphere, so big babies are expected. There were no complications, and we felt easy at heart that all would be well. But labor was very long. The midwife came around midnight, after contractions were regular and close. But progression was going very slow through the night. We tried sleeping sporadically, but PS Big Sister was probably the only one who got significant rest. Hours continued to drag on through morning. Mrs. Political Sphere was worn out. Finally the midwife set about a little program of resupplying energy with food and rest. And then the pushing got underway. Two pushes. That was it. After the first one, the midwife had mommy pause while she moved the cord out of the way.
I was at this point napping in the living room. Political Sphere said, “I need to go get my mom,” since I’d planned to witness the main event. But they said, “NO!” He couldn’t leave, or he’d miss it. He phoned the home phone to call me in. I was there in half a minute. The baby was already fully born, lying on his mommy’s tummy, and getting mouth and nose cleaned out. I did get to do video of Political Sphere cutting the cord. PS Big Sister sneaked in the room with me, so she got an early look at her new brother as well.
He is beautiful and perfect. We think he looks more like his mother than his father (PS Big Sister looks like her daddy did at that age, and something like I did). The first couple of days he mostly slept. Today he’s up longer and looking around, exercising his arms and legs, in between eating and naps. Life at this stage is very simple. It’s essential. And it's brief.
So we’ll get back to political, economic, and broader civilizational concerns another day.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happy 225th Birthday

Photo from Wikipedia
Today marks two and a quarter centuries for our Constitution. Worth celebrating.

The Constitution itself is a quick read; I carry around a pocket copy. And while the language is now a little challenging, because of changing language over time, it is still pretty clear. Where there are questions about the meanings of words and phrases (i.e., “general welfare”), we have plenty of original sources to give us the founders’ understanding of what they were saying.
I’ve been enjoying opportunities this past year to improve my understanding of the Constitution. Hillsdale College is a great source. A year ago it did a free online seminar. That turned into a free online course last winter, Constitution 101, including lectures, readings, online discussions, and quizzes, just like you would expect from a course on campus. And if that weren’t already above and beyond the call of duty, they are now offering a follow-up free online course, Constitution 201 (see links listed below). In this one, they are looking at the comparison of Constitutional ideas and “progressivism,” the philosophy that has crept into government since the early 1900s.
In the second week’s lecture R. J. Pestritto, an expert on Woodrow Wilson, talks about Wilson’s view of one of our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence. Wilson said we should disregard the beginning as irrelevant; the rest of it is a list of grievances of import to those particular people at that time. Wilson asserts that such a list is the concern of every people in its day, and that’s what government should deal with—meeting the requests of the governed. But here is what he disregards:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….
What Wilson disregards is the philosophical rationale for government, that it exists to secure our God-given rights. So he disregards God-given rights; he disregards the limited purpose of government. For a very smart man (the first PhD college professor type ever elected to the White House), he misses not just an important point, but the very essence of government's purpose.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that, when it came to the Constitution, Wilson thought the separation of powers was an inconvenient limitation on presidential powers. Usurpation of power by the exxecutive is particularly relevant today.
As Americans, I think we are beginning to wake up to the value of our brilliant Constitution. If you (or someone you know) are among those just waking up, the starting point is that above section of the Declaration, and this Preamble to the Constitution:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
If you can understand these brief writings, you can understand the basic purpose and limitations of government.
When you’re ready to understand more, I suggest:
·         The Five Thousand Year Leap, W. Cleon Skousen, covering the 28 principles understood by our founders, that still need to be understood today.

·         The Federalist Papers, essays written during the time of the Constitutional Convention, explaining the ideas being written into the Constitution, asking for a strong enough but limited federal government.

·         The Anti-Federalist Papers, essays written during the time of the Constitutional Convention warning against too strong a federal government.

·         Hillsdale College Constitution classes (all free, but you are welcome to donate, all available on demand from original presentation and afterward):

o   Introduction to the Constitution, a five-part lecture series covering basic principles.
o   Constitution 101, a ten-part online course on the meaning and history of the Constitution.
o   Constitution 201, a ten-part online course, currently underway on the progressive rejection of the founding and the rise of bureaucratic despotism.

Friday, September 14, 2012

While Rome Burns

It continues to be a disturbing week. When we left off a couple of days ago, there was unrest in Egypt and violence in Libya. Romney spoke out against the Obama administration’s lack of response and apparent knee-jerk need to sympathize with the perpetrators. The Obama administration said Romney didn’t know what he was talking about and spoke too soon.

Since then, reports have come out that continue to puzzle. There was an obscure internet movie identified that offensively portrayed the prophet Mohammed. It was so obscure previously that it had essentially no notice and no notoriety. It played only once in a theater, to an almost empty house. The filmmaker is now in hiding, and the attention will cause much more viewing than would have occurred without this call to attention. (The movie was removed from online, but here is information about it.)
But it appears the movie-as-catalyst-to-violence is just an excuse. The attacks are more likely a retaliation for deaths from drone strikes in Pakistan some time ago, and the dates were coordinated to hit on 9/11 for the symbolism of the day. In addition, the administration may have had 48 hours warning prior to the attack on the Libyan embassy. Security was believed to be tight enough, but it turns out documents were stolen, and information leaked about a nearby safe house, which was directly attacked.
Additional unrest has occurred in Yemen, Tunisia, and Sudan—and a total of 20 countries. (Info here  and here.) Closer to home, an anonymous caller with a middle eastern accent, claiming ties to al Qaeda, said bombs had been placed around the University of Texas Austin campus this morning. The campus was evacuated, and the time passed for the explosions, and nothing happened or was found. But the sense of vulnerability that terrorism was spread as intended. A similar threat happened on the North Dakota State campus.
Meanwhile, it is reported that the president skipped his intel briefing—again. Also, the House Intelligence Committee requested a briefing from the State Department, which was refused, no reason given.[i] The president sort of said Egypt wasn’t an ally, apparently uncertain of the definition of the word, and then had that statement walked back by the state department. 
Hillary Clinton and others are “shocked, SHOCKED” that the US should be treated this way after all the mollifying we’ve done.
The thing about mollifying is, it lets a bully know your intention is not to stand up to them, and it validates their excuse for violence. Mollifying is not good foreign policy. Unwise people mistake mollifying for diplomacy, but they are quite different. Diplomacy shows respect to other parties while expressing your own party’s (in this case the US's) interests so that all interests can be addressed with respect while moving toward, hopefully, mutual agreement, or at least understanding.
It is difficult to know the president’s inscrutable reasoning. Does he see the situation as acceptable? Does he misread the situation as unimportant? Is he pleased for some anti-American reason? Is he simply incompetent, or is he evil? If there is some other explanation, we certainly ought to hear it—very soon.



ments, or half-answers or half-truths or outright lies from the Obama Administration.

We have to conclude that Obama is worried about what a briefing would show. I'm thinking they couldn't send a rep over from State this morning because they needed some time to get all their lies memorized and synchronized.

Very troubling. We have a shadow government within a rogue government who obviously, and continuously, disregards Congress' role as a legitimate oversight on behalf of the American people


[i] From Kevin Jackson’s The Blacksphere Face book status, 9-13-2012: “On the John Batchelor radio program this evening, a little after 9p.m (eastern), Congressman Devin Nunes (California) was being interviewed by Batchelor. He said that the House Intelligence Committee (of which Nunes is a member) REQUESTED someone from the State Department come to brief them on the events in the Middle East, and not only were they refused that brief, but State didn’t give a reason why
                “Congressman Nunes said it was unprecedented and, as long as he could remember, it had never happened previously in our history. He made a point of saying there was a great deal of bi-partisan cooperation on the committee, so it couldn’t be blamed on election year partisanship; said that both parties on the committee were infuriated. Lastly, he said, ‘Tomorrow, I thinkthe CIA will come in and brief us.’”

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Another Bad 9/11

Eleven years after 9/11/2001. It was another disturbing day. Attacks on two of our embassies, in Egypt and Libya. American lives were lost: Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other embassy personnel in Benghazi. While this attack looks planned and timed for the 9/11 anniversary, it is unclear who perpetrated it. The supposedly spontaneous mob attack in Egypt, combining Islamist radicals and teenage soccer fans, may or may not have been coordinated.

But the two attacks are supposedly the result of anger over a YouTube video. Not something the US has sanctioned. Not something the diplomatic corps did wrong. Not even something many Americans are aware of. (No stories I’ve seen have named or linked any video, nor is any such video likely to still exist online, if it was real.)
An embassy, let’s be sure we understand, is the same as the embassy’s home country soil. An attack on an embassy is an attack on the US itself. Any country so attacked is understood to be authorized to retaliate. Civilization requires that we keep sacred our respect for one another’s diplomatic spaces.
To put it another way, if two armies were on the field of battle and one sent out a white flag, an indicator of a desire to speak and consider terms, the enemy would allow safe passage for the ambassador, the messenger with the white flag. What happened yesterday was surrounding the messenger and attacking him, and then cheering that they’d succeeded in killing off a particularly stupid enemy who’d allowed himself to get close enough for attack. Savage jackals behave this way; civilized humans do not.
So what will be the retaliation for this attack upon our sovereign soil? Not sure yet, but the US Embassy in Cairo (a representative of this administration and its policies) responded with this apology:
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims—as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others. [Emphasis mine.]
The actions of errant videographers are firmly rejected, but there’s not even a weak rejection of the embassy attackers, who were guilty of violating basic laws of civilization. Instead there’s something like, “Oh, we totally understand where you’re coming from. Who wouldn’t savagely attack an embassy when there are offensive things on the internet?” And that last line seems to miss the irony that free speech was much more abused by the attackers, who want to control the speech of everyone around the world, than by some puny individual who may have stepped over a line of good taste. Maybe the video actually is so egregious that a person could be prosecuted for slander, but that hardly qualifies as an excuse for declaring war, which these attacks do.
For good summaries of the attacks, I suggest this Newsmax piece, as well as this commentary by BryanPreston of PJMedia.
What has been happening over the next day or so is telling. Following Tuesday’s administration apology to Egypt and promise to support Libya in bringing perpetrators to justice, Mitt Romney said this:
America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and our embassies. We will defend, also, our Constitutional rights of speech, assembly, and religion. We have confidence in our cause, and in America. We respect our Constitution. We stand for the principles our Constitution protects. We encourage other nations to understand and respect the principles of our Constitution, because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world.
He also condemned Obama and the administration for their apology and non-response. You probably should view his comments in their entirety, here, because the mainstream media has taken it upon themselves to support the Obama administration in condemning Romney for jumping in before all the facts are known, and you might not get the full context from them.
Romney responded to media outrage (with no apology) that it’s never too soon to stand up for our principles. You have to have principles to know how to respond based on principles, which explains something about Romney’s need to school the administration.
In the meantime, Obama is tinkering with military nearby and trying to quell the obvious assumption that he’s as effective as Carter was the last time we had an ambassador killed (1979). But he didn’t want to interrupt his campaign fundraising schedule, so while dead Americans are still being prepared to be shipped home for funerals, he jetted off to speak to wealthy donors in Las Vegas.
And did we mention that there was one more irritant for Obama on 9/11? Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu asked to speak with him later this month, probably related to Israel’s intentions to protect itself from Iran’s growing nuclear threat. But what with campaign season on, Obama told him he couldn’t fit him in the schedule.
I am not making this up.
We’ve seen 3 ½ years of Obama’s often puzzling other-than-pro-American policies. We don’t know why these are his policies. Dinesh D’Souza’s movie 2016 is an attempt to explain, often using Obama’s own words, which we may need to start believing: “I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction” (The Audacity of Hope, p. 161). Maybe he simply means he would stand up against anti-Muslim bigots. But since most Americans are with him on that, why would he need to stand up against America to do it? And when there’s hugely offensive anti-American bigotry—acted out with death and mayhem by people who call themselves Muslims—why can’t we count on our elected president to use at least a little pro-American backbone at a moment such as this? If he could lead, wouldn’t this be an opportunity, rather than an inconvenience during the campaign?

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Recycled Forward Speech

Last Thursday seems so long ago, the Obama acceptance speech has already become irrelevant. But in the interest of completing what I set out to do, this is Part II of commentary on the speech. [Part I here.]

Some of the coming sentences are simply false. Some are painfully ironic.
“I've cut taxes for those who need it.” Taxes are down for those who paid very little to none; 50% of earners pay no taxes, and many of those nonpayers actually receive tax credits. Does this redistribution create wealth? No, none. But he remains willing to nearly double capital gains taxes, even if doing so brings even less revenue to government, because taking from the rich (as he defines anyone making $250,000 a year who has been investing post-tax money as capital) is “fair.” Hmm.
“Now, I won't pretend the path I'm offering is quick or easy. I never have. You didn't elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth.” Actually, he indicated that economic recovery was doable, and quickly: “If I don’t have this done in three years, we’re looking at a one-term proposition.” That statement wasn’t from the speech; that was from an interview with Matt Lauer, February 1, 2009, a couple of weeks after the inauguration, where he’s predicting real progress within a year and says he’s glad he’ll be held accountable. OK, then.
“The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place.” Definitions are so useful when communicating. Does he mean the path to prosperity, which he hopes you believe? Or does he, in his mind, mean the path to government controlled economy, which he sees as “a better place,” even though most Americans, who are not happy to be takers for nothing nor as providers of slave labor for nonproducers, would not see it as better? They would rather have job opportunities instead of unpaid-for government largesse.
“I'm asking you to rally around a set of goals for your country, goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security and the deficit, real, achievable plans that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation.” What set of goals, exactly? None mentioned, so you go ahead and fill in the blank.
“We reinvented a dying auto industry that's back on the top of the world.” Except that the parts of the auto industry that are doing worst are the ones Obama chose to take over and subsidize, as well as those that would have been competitive if Obama hadn’t bet against them, using taxpayer dollars.
“And after a decade of decline, this country created over half a million manufacturing jobs in the last 2 1/2 years.” This seems arbitrary, as stats go. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says 582,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since Obama took office, a little more in loss than the gain he claims.
“In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by 1 million barrels a day, more than any administration in recent history. And today the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in the last two decades.” Any increase in domestic production is mainly due to boom going on in North Dakota—on private land, so Obama had no power to stop it. He shut down production in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere, and sent huge amounts of tax money to help Brazil drill off their coast. No one related to the industry actually believes Obama deserves credit for anything positive about oil production.
“So long as I'm commander in chief, we will sustain the strongest military the world has ever known.” His “plan” includes cutting $1 Trillion from the military. To make it the strongest ever. How? Obama isn’t what we’d call good at math, so maybe we shouldn’t trust him on this one.
“My plan would cut our deficit by $4 trillion.” Didn’t he say this before? And the result was not halving the deficit, but more or less doubling it? Not that such a budget is anything but air, because we can trust Obama’s Democrat-controlled Senate to continue to pass no budget at all.
photo found here
Nothing amused me so much as a side-by-side comparison, provided on Rush Limbaugh’s Friday show, with Jimmy Carter’s 1980 acceptance speech. One would think they used the same speechwriter, if it weren’t for the 32-year time difference. And then team Obama has the temerity to choose the word “forward” as their campaign mantra.
Here are a few samples:
The Choice between Two Futures:
OBAMA: The choice you face won't just be between two candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for America, a choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.
CARTER 1980: This election is a stark choice between two men, two parties, two sharply different pictures of what America is and what the world is, but it's more than that. It's a choice between two futures.

Being President Is Hard:
OBAMA: Times have changed, and so have I. I'm no longer just a candidate. I'm the president. I know what it means to send young Americans into battle. For I've held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn't return. I've shared the pain of families who lost their homes and the frustration of workers who've lost their jobs. While I'm very proud of what we've achieved together, I'm far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, "I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go."
CARTER 1980: Let me talk for a moment about what that job is like and what I've learned from it. I've learned that only the most complex and difficult task comes before me in the Oval Office. No easy answers are found there, because no easy questions come there. I've learned that for a president, experience is the best guide to the right decisions. I'm wiser tonight than I was four years ago. And I have learned that the presidency is a place of compassion. My own heart is burdened for the troubled Americans, the poor and the jobless and the afflicted. They've become part of me.

I’ve Finally Got Energy Figured Out:
OBAMA: You can choose the path where we control more of our own energy. After 30 years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. We have doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries. In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by 1 million barrels a day, more than any administration in recent history. And today the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in the last two decades.
So now you have a choice between a strategy that reverses this progress or one that builds on it.
We've opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration in the last three years, and we'll open more. But unlike my opponent, I will not let oil companies write this country's energy plan or endanger our coastlines or collect another $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayers. We're offering a better path.
We're offering a better path where we—a future where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal, where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and trucks, where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy, where—where we develop a hundred-year supply of natural gas that's right beneath our feet. If you choose this path, we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone.
CARTER 1980: The battle to secure America's energy future has been fully and finally joined. Americans have cooperated with dramatic results. We've reversed decades of dangerous and growing dependence on foreign oil. We are now importing 20 percent less oil. That is one-and-a-half million barrels of oil every day less than the day I took office. This is what they propose: to destroy the windfall profits tax and to unleash the oil companies and let them solve the energy problem for us.

Maybe it’s just coincidence, or circumstance; maybe there’s nothing else that can be said to ask for four more years of a failed presidency.
Let’s hope, for the sake of our nation’s future, that Obama is exactly as effective with these words as Carter was.

Friday, September 7, 2012


There are things, institutions, we belong to, gladly: family, church, community. “I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” is a song we teach our young children at church. Belonging is something we want to feel. If we don’t feel we belong in our family, it leaves holes that we may spend a lifetime trying to fill.
from the DNC ad, photo from C-SPAN
The ad that came out earlier this week, shown at the DNC convention, caused something of an uproar about the idea of “belonging.”
I do belong to my family; I don’t think that means they “own” me. I believe it means they have a claim on my loyalty. I belong to my church; I am a member. I don’t think that means the Church owns me, although I would say that my turning my life over to God does mean, in a way, He owns me; I have entrusted my life to Him. I would not trust my life and soul to someone less perfect than God.
I did not immediately assume the DNC ad meant government “owned” me when it said we all “belong” to government. But as I think about it, I believe it is worth making the distinction. We don’t “belong” to government the way we belong to a church or other organization. We are not members of government. We are citizens of the United States of America; we “belong” to the country, meaning we have a claim on this community and offer our loyalty. But government is not The United States of which we are citizens. Government is a service we hire, as citizens, in our efforts to protect our God-given rights to life, liberty, and property (and how we pursue a living). The United States existed with the Articles of Confederation prior to the writing of the Constitution. The “new” government was created “in order to form a more perfect union." It is a constitutional republic, which, unlike a democracy, limits government so the power of the tyrannical majority cannot infringe on my inalienable rights.
When the DNC says we’re in this together, I’d say that is a positive idea that we all share. But when they describe that togetherness as government, they have revealed the underlying rift between their ideas and freedom ideas.
In President Obama’s nomination acceptance speech Thursday night, he used the word “together” seven times that I counted. There are probably additional expressions meaning “together” as well. For someone who has been accused, not infrequently, of being a socialist, giving a speech with the theme “this is a collective” is not good PR, but it is probably truthful.
He claimed he believed in the constitutional concept of being endowed with inalienable God-given rights. It was a paragraph that easily could have been spoken (probably was) at the RNC convention:
As Americans, we believe we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, rights that no man or government can take away. We insist on personal responsibility, and we celebrate individual initiative. We're not entitled to success. We have to earn it. We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk-takers, the entrepreneurs who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system, the greatest engine of growth and prosperity that the world's ever known.
Then he follows with a big “but” clause:
But we also believe in something called citizenship—citizenship, a word at the very heart of our founding, a word at the very essence of our democracy, the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.
What exactly does he mean by “citizenship” and belonging to government? Because the use of the “but” clause implies that this supersedes the lesser idea of inalienable rights. And he doesn’t mean personal responsibility, because the placement of the “but” clause means he’s superseding that as well.
If “belonging” refers to belonging to government, and “citizenship” doesn’t mean having responsibilities as well as rights, then what does he mean? How can we conclude that he means anything other than the transformation to socialism that he’s been accused of seeking?
Nearer the end he says, “As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It's about what can be done by us, together.” Actually, no, citizenship does not mean what “we, the government” can do, because the protection of inalienable rights carefully and meticulously limits government. Citizenship is about the guarantee of inalienable rights; the proper role of government is to provide that protection—and that is all! This whole idea of “trust me to gather our collective resources and decide what we should do” is more than a little troubling to someone who loves constitutional liberty.
Near the beginning of the speech, he said this true statement: “When all is said and done, when you pick up that ballot to vote, you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation.” I agree.
He added, accurately, “And on every issue, the choice you face won't just be between two candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for America, a choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.”
He used the word “choice” 10 times, and the word “choose” 10 times in the speech. It was a compare/contrast piece. But when he then went on to describe what we’re choosing between, that didn’t go so well on the truthfulness scale. I think we’ll pick up that discussion next time.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Show or Tell

Back in writing classes we used to be taught, “Show, Don’t Tell.” It’s the difference between saying, “He cares so much about people,” and “He stopped during the campaign, when no media were around, and helped us dig up a tree stump.”
The contrast between showing and telling came up during Ryan’s speech last week:
President Obama was asked not long ago to reflect on any mistakes he might have made. He said, well, "I haven't communicated enough." He said his job is to "tell a story to the American people"— as if that's the whole problem here? He needs to talk more, and we need to be better listeners?
Ladies and gentlemen, these past four years we have suffered no shortage of words in the White House. What's missing is leadership in the White House. And the story that Barack Obama does tell, forever shifting blame to the last administration, is getting old. The man assumed office almost four years ago— isn't it about time he assumed responsibility?
I’ve intended, to be fair, to give some listening time to the DNC convention this week, after enjoying so many inspiring speeches during last week’s RNC convention. But I don’t have the stomach to do the full job as a journalist would be required to do. So mostly here today I’m going to share a few memorable phrases and speeches.
There has been a false narrative for a long time about “those evil, rich Republicans,” and that class envy theme is a basic attack this campaign. Of all the candidates they could use this against, Obama’s team is stuck with characterizing Mitt Romney this way. When they do the story telling, it’s pretty rough.
There’s a now-famous ad, where they try to tie him in to the death of a woman (available on YouTube, but blocked now because it’s so provably false). Two years after Romney left Bain Capital to run the Salt Lake Olympics, Bain decided to close a plant. A man named Joe Soptic was offered a buyout, with which he could continue to keep his insurance; he chose not to take it. So when the plant closed, he was without income and insurance, until he found another job. His wife was still employed and insured for some years hence. He eventually got a new job but for some reason chose not to purchase insurance for his wife. She suffered an accident that led to her being unable to do her previous job, and her insurance was not continued, and he did not then begin purchasing insurance for her. Some 5-6 years after the closing of the plant (probably 7+ years after Romney left), Mr. Soptic’s wife died of cancer. When he took her to the hospital, where she got a diagnosis and care even without insurance, she had stage 4 cancer and died in a matter of weeks.
His claim that it was Romney’s fault his wife died of cancer is about as sturdy as a cobweb. But he was a real person, whose wife actually did die of cancer, so the storytellers went with it. If there were a better actual story of harm done by Romney, don’t you think they would have told it?
Romney has a hard time telling people, “No, really, I’m kind and generous.” It goes against the grain to tell that, when you really are that. So it took others to tell the true story about him. It started with Ann Romney’s speech, which portrayed him as real and caring. She has been telling this about him for years; her story about how he cared for her when she was sticken with MS and unsure whether she’d ever be able to walk and function again, is powerful and memorable—and very real. But not new, except that suddenly more people are hearing her.
But the newer stories were the community friends he has quietly helped over the years. Pat and Ted Oparowski told their story of a dying teenage son then Mitt Romney had gone out of his way to care for.
And Pam Finlayson told of her daughter, born premature, who received personal care and support from the Romneys, up through her death at age 26, a year ago. This story was especially touching to me; our first child was born 3 ½ months early, and we got to keep him with us only a few hours, so I know what her worry must have been. We had friends sit with us in the hospital as well. One of these close friends later went to grad school at MIT and ended up living in Belmont, MA, for many years. I’m sure this woman’s story is true, because I have known people who have lived that story in my life.
The Romney acts of kindness are summarized in this American Thinker article.
Romney is a doer, not a teller.
I’m happy to see that is true of his running mate, Ryan, as well. I kept the transcript of his inspiring speech, and share here a few of my favorite moments:
·         Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation's economic problems.

·         After four years of government trying to divide up the wealth, we will get America creating wealth again.

·         President Obama is the kind of politician who puts promises on the record, and then calls that the record.

·         College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life. [Notice how much more effective this is than simply saying, “Too many young college graduates can’t get jobs,” which is true and concrete, but less vivid.]

·         When I was waiting tables, washing dishes, or mowing lawns for money, I never thought of myself as stuck in some station in life. I was on my own path, my own journey, an American journey where I could think for myself, decide for myself, define happiness for myself. That's what we do in this country. That's the American Dream. That's freedom, and I'll take it any day over the supervision and sanctimony of the central planners.

·         The man who will accept your nomination tomorrow is prayerful and faithful and honorable. Not only a defender of marriage, he offers an example of marriage at its best. Not only a fine businessman, he's a fine man, worthy of leading this optimistic and good-hearted country.

·         We will not try to replace our founding principles; we will reapply our founding principles.
While we’re talking about writing skills, that last one is an example of parallel structure, something Lincoln used to use with great effect: “But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground” ("Gettysburg Address").

I have long appreciated Romney’s speech writing. He says what he needs to for me to understand the ideas. But he is a better doer than teller. Ryan may be a better communicator of those same ideas. It’s a good match. But, with them together, we can expect action in the right direction, regardless of how the story is told.